Even though I was no longer producing art, I always knew I wanted the real thing in my home. Once we had achieved a level of economic stability, sometime in the mid nineties, we made our first purchases. Three paintings found at an art show in Fairborn, Ohio, all local artists. One of which was and is the first thing I see every morning. The hook was set.
A few years later, as a gift from my husband, I received a coffee table book about Native Americans. I read it from cover to cover. Part of the illustrations included were several paintings by a Chickasaw artist, Mike Larsen. One of them was a gorgeous triptych centerfold like in the book. Prior to his paintings, I did not want people in my art. But there was something in how he portrayed people as if he had arrested them in mid movement. I couldn’t get enough.
Suddenly, I was like Pepe Le Pew pulled along in mid air after a scent I couldn’t deny. I had to have some of his art work. I knew without doubt if he was in that book I couldn’t afford him, but I could probably find a print.
The internet was pretty new then for this kind of search, so I could find nothing about him that way. So, I turned to the book’s bibliography. I figured if I could find out who represented him, I could find out how to get a print of one of his pieces. The bibliography was silent. Not to be deterred, I located the book’s publisher. New York of course. Thank goodness for business pages. I called the publisher.
To the publisher, I explained my quest. I wanted to find an outlet where I could purchase one of Mr. Larsen’s prints. Did they have any information about his representation? The lady was kind, but the publisher had no information other than Mr. Larsen resided in Oklahoma City. All righty then.
I sat with this information for a few days, but the hook kept tugging. It was a “what the hell” moment. So I dialed 411 for Oklahoma City and asked for the phone number of Mike Larsen. There were five. Now, some folks may remember when information was called, it was a live operator who literally was standing by to fulfill your next request. Mentally, I flipped the coin, what was the worst thing that could happen? I would pick one and it would be wrong. None of them would be the guy I was looking for. If I connected to the right one, he wouldn’t speak with me, or not return my call, or get a restraining order. What did I know about it?
I picked the first one on the list. I could hear the number going through and the phone rang. I had not rehearsed anything to say. I literally just held my breath. The call was answered. A very soft spoken male voice. My business sense kicked in a little, and I told him who I was and that I was attempting to find the artist named Mike Larsen. Speaking. SPEAKING! Dammit I was talking to MIKE LARSEN. My entire system went fan girl. I gushed, I bumbled, I stammered. And he was kind and gracious and unassuming the whole time.
When I finally came to, I asked about his prints. At that point, he wasn’t producing any, but he offered to send me a portfolio. Now, I had never dealt with an artist “face to face” like this. I didn’t know what he was saying. I didn’t know what a portfolio meant, but I had been raised to to be polite so I agreed. On his part, he was happy to hear someone enjoyed his art so much. Gracious to the bone. We rang off.
I was a happy camper and went to bed blissfully. The next day was a work day, and had no more on my mind than getting through it and coming home to be with my husband. Unusually, I was the first one home that night. On the door step was a thick overnight package from Fedex. I had never received an overnight package at home. It had to be bad news.
Opening it, revealed a white business envelope with Mike Larsen’s return address. I could hardly breathe. Inside the envelope was a stack of polaroids of his available work. Polaroids. He had taken the time to send me Polaroids! I just kept shuffling through them. Nothing in my past experience had prepared me for this. On the back of each print, was the price for the piece. I was right, way out of my league. But oh Lord how I wanted to.
In my cloud of euphoria, I didn’t know what the next move should be. What was appropriate in this type of exchange? A thank you note? Return the prints? A phone call? I literally couldn’t think, couldn’t come to a decision on how to respond. So I didn’t.
I still feel that inadequacy today. Those photographs are some of my prized possessions. I still don’t own a Mike Larsen, his asking prices have gone up, as they should have. I still don’t have a print, though he does produce some from time to time. Mr. Larsen has a gallery in OKC now, he’s a highly regarded and much awarded artist. His gallery is on my bucket list. Someday I will return his photographs in person. Until then, I dream.